It did not take Bryan very long to start screwing up the French Polynesia trip. 45 minutes, to be exact. It was 5:30 AM and we had just left the house. As we got into our taxi, with a friendly and cheerful (overly cheerful for 5:30 AM, in Bryan’s opinion) driver, Bryan ran through his mental checklist with Lisa one more time.
“Front door locked? Patio door locked?”
“Water off? Stove off?”
“Did you wash out the milk container?”
“But did you do it properly? Like fill it with water, shake it, dump it out, and then do it again?”
“I know how to rinse a milk container…”
“But if there’s any residue left it will stink up my parents’ house, and they won’t be back for a month. Are you sure??”
“OK, why don’t you go check and see if it was done to your satisfaction?”
“No, I trust you.”
“You clearly don’t, so just go check it yourself.”
“No, that’s OK, I trust you!”
“GO CHECK IT!!!!!!!”
“OKAY OKAY NO NEED TO YELL.”
With that, Bryan apologized to the taxi driver and asked her to turn around. She was very polite and said that lots of people forget stuff on the way to the airport. We bet she’s never had to turn around for something this ridiculous, though.
When we got back, Bryan scuttled out of the taxi and into the house, and indeed, the milk container had been cleaned to a satisfactory level. Like Lisa had said. Then we went to the airport.
As we were checking in, and then going through security, we probably could have been mistaken for a couple headed off on their honeymoon to French Polynesia. That is, if they had just gotten married and realized they had made a terrible mistake, and now wanted nothing other than to be rid of each other as soon as possible. We were glowering, making biting sarcastic comments, and generally ignoring each other. This did not bode well for our next 6 weeks in supposed paradise.
By the time we reached LA, Bryan had made amends and we were on better footing. We had a 3-hour layover before our flight to Tahiti, which departed at 16:00. It was an 8-hour flight, and we weren’t sure about which meals would be included. We also did not want to get hangry. So we went to Panda Express and each got a 3-item combo – a large styrofoam container overflowing with chow mein, tofu and lots of vegetables.
After hurriedly stuffing our faces, we sweated our way to our gate. This was the first time out of many on the trip that Lisa would curse Bryan for the amount of luggage we were taking. We had trimmed down our packing list as much as we could, considering we were traveling to French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia and SE Asia, and covering activities including overnight kayaking and multi-day backpacking. That part came out to 10 kg for Lisa’s pack, and 12 kg for Bryan’s pack. And then we added on 10 kg of underwater camera gear, 13 kg of land camera gear (including a drone), and 7 kg of snorkeling gear. For those of you who have run out of fingers and toes, that comes out to a grand total of 52 kg (~115 lbs).
Fortunately we did not have to carry our checked packs through the airport, but we still had about 28 kg between the two of us. This made the 30-45 minute cross-terminal trek particularly unpleasant.
As we were en route to our gate, we heard our names over the PA system. Bryan, having previously missed a flight due to, let’s call it inattentiveness, nervously checked his watch and boarding pass, but we still had lots of time. Upon arrival, we went up and were asked to show our luggage tags. After trying and failing to scan the tags, the gate agent explained to us that Air Canada didn’t properly tag their luggage, so she could not bring up our bags on her system.
This did not sound good. Then she talked to someone on the phone, and we did not hear any mention of our names or flight number, or any other identifying information. But she still informed us that “your bags should be good now.” As you can imagine, this filled us with confidence.
Shortly after taking off, the announcement was made that food would soon be served. We looked at each other in despair, realizing we now had to pile an airplane meal on top of the already voluble Panda Express fare sitting in our stomachs. Of course, as we had requested vegetarian food, our meals were served first, with our names on them. Not wanting to waste food, we politely accepted them and then spent the next hour and a half determinedly stuffing our faces.
Much of the flight passed uneventfully, but with about 3 hours to go, the hammer dropped. Another meal was being served. What?? No!!
Once more, the friendly flight attendant came to us first, with our neatly labeled vegetarian meals. Once more, we politely accepted and then determinedly stuffed our faces. This time it was more painful, but we were stoic in the face of such hardship.
As we grimly soldiered on, finishing up the beans and rice and starting on the fruit salad, the anvil dropped. The plane started bucking and shaking, followed shortly by the seatbelt sign coming on, and the captain announcing that we were experiencing some turbulence, could everyone please return to their seats and stay there?
Our overly stuffed stomachs did not like this development one bit. We each fought with our motion sickness demons as best we could: Bryan, blasting heavy metal on his noise-canceling earbuds, tightly shutting his eyes and visualizing calm, and taking long and loud breaths in through his nose, out through his mouth; Lisa, stuffing her face with ginger candies and grabbing Bryan’s arm in a death grip. As you can imagine, Lisa’s method of coping did not complement Bryan’s method – in fact, quite the opposite. So every few minutes, Bryan said a few terse words of encouragement to Lisa, before feeling his gorge rise and having to return to his land of “zen.”
After about 45 minutes of this, people started to break. There was a long lineup of people waiting for the bathroom. The smell of puke was in the air, necessitating pulling up our shirts over our noses as erstwhile protection from the awful fumes. And of course, we were sitting in the row right next to the bathroom, so there really was no escaping. At one point, we even saw a child running down the aisle without a shirt, her mother following her with a garbage bag containing what we can only imagine was her puke-covered clothing. We continued to do our best to maintain our zen, and managed to do just enough. When we landed, after 90 minutes of heavy turbulence, we felt sick but had not lost any of the contents of our extremely over-filled stomachs.
Welcome to Tahiti (in the style of Will Smith’s ‘Miami’)
As we disembarked, we were smothered by oppressively hot and humid air. Keep in mind that we were also wearing our hiking boots and all of our heaviest clothing to help alleviate our packing woes. We walked past the traditional Polynesian musical outfit with no more than a tired, sickly glance, while Bryan rolled his eyes at the tourists recording the performance on their smartphones.
After grabbing our packs and sweating through the lineup, we excitedly greeted the border security agent. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm was not mutual. After eyeing up our large packs and sweaty attire with suspicion, he asked us how long we were staying in French Polynesia. We told him 6 weeks. He then said we needed to show him our outbound plane tickets, for leaving French Polynesia. Of course, there was no WiFi at the airport, so we explained we would need to turn on one of our phones to get roaming access before we could show him our tickets. He kept our passports, and told us to go off to the side and come back when we could show proof.
After a few minutes, Bryan was able to pull up the tickets on his phone, so we went back to the security agent. He made us wait until everyone else had been processed, then gave the tickets a cursory glance and returned our passports. Welcome to Tahiti, indeed.
WHAT DID YOU DO??
After staying in a nice hostel for the night (with air conditioning! And free breakfast!), we had to walk about 15 minutes to get to the ferry terminal to Moorea. That doesn’t sound too bad, but let us remind you that, between the two of us, we were carrying 52 kg of luggage. And it was already at least 30 degrees out, with relentless sun.
Bryan decided to do the walk in his hiking boots, while Lisa decided to wear her sandals to spare herself the hot and sweaty feet. *Cue ominous music.*
About halfway to the terminal, Lisa went down with a squeal. Bryan turned to see her on the ground, holding her foot and whimpering. And what was the first thing that came out of Lisa’s loving fiance’s mouth? “What did you do?!?!”
As you can imagine, this did not sit well with Lisa, who promptly began to cry. Bryan stood there in shock, not sure what to do next. At this point, a guy from the nearby tourism tent came over to see if Lisa was OK (well, at least someone cared). Lisa sputtered that she was OK, while Bryan became unfrozen and started digging around in his pack for a bandaid. Then Lisa got out a wet wipe, and we cleaned up the wound and bandaged it up, arguing the whole time.
Lisa wanted to know why he said that brilliant line when she fell. Clearly, he did not care for her. Bryan’s defence was that of course he cared about Lisa and her wellbeing. The problem was that he was slightly more worried that Lisa would blame this on him (and their excessive and unwieldy load of luggage) so those are the unfortunate words that he reflexively shouted out.
After hobbling to the ferry, we got tickets and dropped off our bags, with Bryan somehow managing to drop two credit cards and his dive certification card on the ground in the process. If a nice man had not pointed this out to him, we would have really been in some trouble.
Finally, we got on the ferry, relieved to be off Tahiti and on our way to Moorea. Of course we were still arguing about our latest scuffle, but that was brought to an end about 15 minutes into the ride, when we started hitting some large swells. Swells that made the boat rock from side to side. Once more, Bryan closed his eyes, began his breathing regimen, and tried to remain zen. Lisa stuffed down ginger candies and squeezed Bryan’s arm. Once more, we barely made it across without puking. As we got off the ferry, grabbed our bags and met up with Bryan’s parents, it started to rain. They told us that it had been raining like crazy for the past few days, and next thing you know, we were driving through a deluge.
So here we were all ready for a week of snorkeling with humpbacks – bruised, bleeding, nauseous, and generally miserable. Paradise, right?